is the author of two books of fiction, The Point and Other Stories and The Dead Fish Museum and the essay collections Orphans and Loitering: New & Collected Essays.
Saturday, March 5, 2022
This class has already happened.
The Supposed Self
When I state myself, as the Representative of the Verse—it does not mean—me—but a supposed person. —Emily Dickinson
Never to be yourself and yet always—that is the problem. —Virginia Woolf
It’s been said that the law of the innermost form of the personal essay is heresy, and if that’s true, if the form itself is heretical, if it resists orthodoxy, then what can I say as a teacher that doesn’t involve burning witches? Let’s don’t do that; instead, let’s be witches together. In this class we’ll create a kind of essayistic space and do all our discovering together, exploring one of the form’s central mysteries.
Who is the self that speaks in a personal essay? In many of the essays I love, there often seems to be a self who undergoes the original experience, and another self, a supposed and supposing self, who returns to write about it. And they’re not exactly the same, I don’t think. We’ll explore the connection between those two selves, the person and the persona, and try to complicate it. We’ll look coldly at the self as a compositional resource, something to construct with care. How do we get beyond the poor ragged self with its meager bundle of biographical facts? How much self is too much, when is it intruding on the situation? How do we handle the “I”—that slender and sly pronoun—and the wide shadow it casts?
Most of the time I think of the self as a snare and I don’t like being trapped in it. I try to reach out beyond my pittance of experience and connect to the world and for that I need a self that’s me and yet not quite. How does that even work? We’ll talk about masks and muses, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, comedy and poetry, all the while digging down into the theater of the self, or selves, that whole quarrelsome and unresolvable drama at the center of our being. Participants will receive a packet of essays in which a central theme will be the self at risk. And we’ll make our merry way with a mix of brief lectures, close reading, and lively discussion.
Saturday, March 5, 2022
3:00–5:00 p.m. ET
Online on Zoom
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